When the Right and Left Converge: Montpelier Downtown Smoking Ban
It is time to stand up against both sides of the political spectrum, the extreme ideas that are eroding our civil liberties and are trying to control our every waking minute. Their motivations and goals might be different, but the effects are the same. We are being infantilized by both groups. The right wants to control our reproductive rights, our bodies and what goes on in our bedrooms. The left wants to deny health care to people who they perceive as having risky behaviors, like smokers or people who are overweight. They want to control our sugar intake, count calories at restaurants and demonize any behavior they don’t agree with. They jog down the street inhaling the fumes of cars, yet don’t fight one of the biggest pollutants in Vermont, which is emissions from wood burning stoves. I want all of these people from both extremes out of my bedroom, out of my food, out of my healthcare and leave me to decide my own fate and make my own decisions. So, for all of us who have sat by for too long and let both political extremes run over our personal freedoms, it is time to say enough. The religious right and the politically correct left has had enough to say and has done enough damage. As the bumper sticker I saw yesterday when walking down Main Street said, “Come over to the dark side. We have cookies.”
Linda Whalen, Montpelier
On Smoking Ban: Council Trying to Dictate Behavior
I read the article on banning smoking in Montpelier with disbelief. I can imagine smokers sneaking around town, hiding in alleys, smoking furtively as if it was something to be ashamed of. If the elitest population that has taken over Montpelier politics dislikes smoking so much, make it completely illegal to purchase or possess tobacco products in Montpelier. I am not a physician but unless you are standing next to a group of smokers and inhaling deeply it can’t be more dangerous than breathing auto exhaust or the greasy smoke from some of the restaurants in town. I’m sure the people who are aggressively pushing this issue have many other ready reasons why a ban would be a good thing: Youth addiction, trash etc., but I think it may come down to the fact that they just don’t like smoking and want to legislate other peoples’ behavior to mirror their own. I am wondering what is next, the color of someone’s shirt? It used to be that it was understood if you went out in “public” you would have to tolerate some things you might not agree with. Apparently not in Montpelier.
Rocque Long, ex-smoker, Montpelier
Keep Montpelier Inclusive: Reconsider Smoking Ban
To the city councilors, I’d like to encourage Montpelier’s reconsideration if its position in favor of a smoking ban. To consider conviviality over political expedience.
Many groups and organizations are built around missions to support our youth, to promote the health and safety of our communities. These are good and valuable aspirations. No doubt these groups need “wins” to keep up their political relevance, funding base, etc.
For these groups to target niche behaviors like smoking and smokers through municipal ordinances is the wrong approach. It is, in effect, expedient posturing and does not address the hard work of root causes.
I frequent Montpelier’s streets; I love them. I can’t express a more sheer delight in the diverse and convivial encounters that I happen across daily. Maybe one in 10 or 20 involve smokers or smoking.
A ban exaggerates the dilemma.
Some readers will no doubt express discomfort and displeasure from the practice. I feel the same toward the hordes of vehicles that interrupt pedestrian freedom. Some readers will certainly point to the health consequences of smoking; I might say the same about the sale of alcohol beverages that keep our bars full downtown.
The city isn’t in the business of regulating these personal choices.
The point is, people have rights to their behaviors. The public domain is precisely that space where we negotiate tolerable behavior and mitigate intolerable behavior. Smoking is, by no stretch of reason, an intolerable behavior. As such, the requirements of mitigation exist between people, not institutions and people.
It is my strongly held opinion that the city has no business regulating this behavior in the public streets. A ban on smoking downtown unnecessarily and disproportionately displaces the right of one people to enjoy their common grounds while favoring the enlarged and entitled view of another group.
In short, a ban is divisive and works against the goal of fostering an accessible, inclusive and participatory city.
Smoking may not be a behavior enjoyed by the majority of Montpelier residents and visitors. But it neither inconveniences nor displaces those of us who do not. Most important, it remains a behavior that can be negotiated onsite, between two people.
As our culture and politics gravitate ever more toward customization, personalization and privilege it is essential that we preserve our public spaces as gathering points for diversity and, dare I say it, even some discomfort.
Thank you for considering my point of view. Let’s keep Montpelier inclusive.
Lars Hasselblad Torres, Cabot
What are you doing after graduation?
Today I’m thinking about all the young people in our area — from high school students in Montpelier to college students in Burlington — who are about to graduate, as my youngest daughter did a year ago. My heart goes out to each one hoping to find something to do that uses his or her unique talents. My daughter scraped by for many months after graduation in New York City, working in retail shops and even taking Polaroid pictures of tourists in Times Square to help pay the rent. I longed to help her.
Around this time I came across a YouTube video by an inspirational speaker named Tom McElroy that really changed my perspective. It was titled, “Purpose: Letting Your Brilliance Shine Through.” He challenged underlying assumptions about what brings satisfaction, and offered ideas about how to bring the qualities we yearn for into our lives reliably and consistently. I applied these ideas to my daughter’s situation, and within 24 hours she had an interview and later an offer for what has turned out to be a great job for her.
Our church has invited McElroy to give this talk in Montpelier. It will be held in a tent on the State House lawn on Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m., with live music beginning at 6:30 p.m. It’s really for anyone yearning for more fulfillment in life — maybe you! — but please consider inviting young graduates to come hear this inspiring and helpful message.
Nancy Humphrey Case, Hyde Park
Credit Where Credit is Due
While I applaud the efforts of Dwire to return the facade of his building back to its historical origins, as someone in the construction industry I find it frustrating that you fail to mention who actually did the work (GB Contruction). Your story implies that Dwire himself may have. In a community where word of mouth references are the best source of new work, would it hurt to put the actual builder’s name in the article (instead of a tiny picture of his sign) and maybe give him some more work?
A Note from the Editor: Apologizing for Omissions
Yes, Andrew Tetreault is right. As the writer of a story that appeared on pages 14 and 15 of the May 21 issue of The Bridge with the title “Uncommon Doorway: (New) Historic Entrance Installed at 1 School Street” I ought to have acknowledged the local businesses and skilled construction professionals who rebuilt the historic entrance.
While I did acknowledge the role of building owner Matt Dwire and historic preservation architect Jay White, I should have mentioned: Gianni Badeau and Jamie Okeefe from GB Construction in Barre. Also I should have acknowledged these local businesses: Burrell Roofing in Williamstown the firm that was responsible for the copper roofing; Allen Lumber, the company that was responsible for the doors and most of the materials; Portland Glass, the firm that was responsible for the glass; and Sherwin-Williams the company that supplied the paint.